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Ferrari inflict gearbox penalty on Felipe Massa in Austin // Grid penalty ensures teammate Alonso starts on the clean side of the grid

Published by Mr. C

In what is bound to be viewed as an incredibly cynical move, the Ferrari team broke the seal on Felipe Massa's gearbox ahead of the United States Grand Prix. In doing so they have ensured Massa takes a five place grid penalty, thereby promoting lead driver Fernando Alonso forward a position and crucially onto the clean side of the grid.

Alonso leads Massa in Austin
Alonso leads Massa in AustinCredit: Pirelli S.p.A

Massa had qualified ahead of Alonso for only the second time this season, but his 7th place starting slot meant that the only man able to challenge championship leader Sebastian Vettel for the title this season would have to start from the dirty side of the grid. The five place penalty means Massa will start Sunday's race from 12th place, while Alonso inherits the coveted 7th place.

The penultimate race of the year is being held at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Whilst the track layout and circuit organisation has impressed drivers, teams and fans alike, there have been concerns over grip at the start of the race on the lesser used side of the start/finish straight. Lewis Hamilton, who also has to line up on that side, voiced his concerns yesterday.

Formula 1 has been keen to make a good impression in the States after a five year absence, one wonders whether such a manoeuvre from Ferrari, this close to the start of the race, is a wise thing to be doing. Questions also need to be asked about whether regulations can be changed for next season to prevent something like this happening over and again.

Red Bull presumably have the option of forcing Mark Webber to take a similar penalty, which would force Alonso back onto the unfavourable side of the grid, albeit another place further forward.

The race gets underway 13:00 local time (19:00 GMT), you can view the entire starting grid here.

All content in the series USA 2012